Renewable energy is a critical part of Maharashtra’s energy landscape. In order to meet its constantly growing energy demands, the state has achieved considerable success in harnessing clean and sustainable energy sources. Maharashtra has significant potential for renewable energy owing to its plentiful sunshine, large land mass and proximity to coastal breezes. In order to diversify its energy mix and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, the state is actively pursuing a variety of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, biomass and hydropower.
With 5.13 GW of wind power, 4.98 GW of solar power, 2.64 GW of biofuels, and 382 MW of small hydro capacity, the state now ranks among the top states in terms of installed renewable energy capacity (13.14 GW). Maharashtra has seen a major increase in solar power capacity in recent years, primarily through an increasing number of solar parks, rooftop installations and solar energy regulations that support the use of solar technology by both residential and commercial consumers. Additionally, the state has made significant investments in wind energy projects and has explored biomass energy options for converting organic and agricultural waste into electricity. However, Maharashtra’s road towards a future powered entirely by renewable energy sources has not been without its share of challenges. These include the erratic nature of solar and wind resources, grid integration complexities, land acquisition issues, discom-related constraints and vulnerabilities associated with climate change. These issues must be resolved to maximise renewable energy potential in Maharashtra. Nevertheless, the state remains committed to increasing its the renewable energy capacity, attracting private sector investment and encouraging innovation in the industry.
Renewable Watch takes a look at recent developments in the state’s renewable energy sector…
Recent projects and tenders
At 5,136.38 MW, the installed wind power capacity accounts for the majority of the state’s total renewable capacity. Between November 2022 and September 2023, the state’s installed wind energy capacity increased by just 124 MW, reflecting a slow growth. In August 2023, the Suzlon Group secured a 201.6 MW wind power project in Maharashtra, for which it will deploy 64 of its largest wind turbine generators, each with a 3.15 MW rated capacity and a hybrid lattice tubular tower. In April 2023, Cleantech Solar signed 25 MW of wind projects for global industrial manufacturers at its upcoming wind parks in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Solar power constitutes the second-highest installed capacity among renewables in the state, at 4,982.53 MW. This comprises ground-mounted projects (3,009.14 MW), rooftop projects (1,716.3 MW) and off-grid projects (257.09 MW). Both public and private sector entities have been actively involved in solar power projects in Maharashtra. In September 2023, MSEB Agro Solar Power, a subsidiary of Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) Holding Company Limited, issued five requests for proposals with an aggregated capacity of 977.72 MW under the Mukhyamantri Saur Krushi Vahini Yojana scheme. The tenders have been issued for various capacities in the Kolhapur, Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, Satara, Sangli and Yavatmal districts of the state. In April 2023, Mahagenco floated bids for installing and commissioning a 62 MW grid-connected solar power project in Akola, Maharashtra. Recently, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited also floated a tender for 225 MW (AC) of solar power from decentralised, grid-connected PV projects in Maharashtra. In February 2023, Amp Energy India completed a 5 MW solar power plant for Bharat Serums and Vaccines Limited (BSV). This solar project will supply solar power to BSV’s manufacturing facility in Ambernath from Amp’s open access facility in Osmanabad district, Maharashtra.
Recently, Tata Power signed an MoU with the Maharashtra government to set up two large pumped hydro storage projects in the state. The total capacity of the two projects is 2,800 MW. These projects will entail an investment of Rs 130 billion and create jobs for over 6,000 people. In June 2023, NHPC Limited and Maharashtra’s Department of Energy signed an MoU for the development of pumped storage schemes and other renewable energy source projects in Maharashtra. The MoU envisages the development of four pumped storage projects aggregating 7,350 MW of capacity, namely, Kalu (1,150 MW), Savitri (2,250 MW), Jalond (2,400 MW) and Kengadi (1,550 MW).
Other recent projects
In June 2023, SJVN Limited signed an MoU with Mahagenco for the development of 5,000 MW of renewable energy projects. It aims to explore the feasibility of setting up various renewable projects in Maharashtra, including hydro, pumped storage, wind, solar, hybrid and green hydrogen projects. Further, SJVN and Mahagenco will jointly participate in tenders floated by the Maharashtra government for the renovation and modernisation of small-hydropower stations that are operated and maintained by Mahagenco. Power Finance Corporation Limited also issued a request for proposal for the development of an interstate transmission system to transport 1,500 MW of electricity from renewable energy projects in Maharashtra’s Solapur special economic zone.
The state’s share in electric vehicle (EV) sales has also risen from 4 per cent to 13 per cent over the past five years owing to its favourable policies and developing EV infrastructure. The segment has attracted greater investments in recent times. In September 2023, a request for a proposal to develop 22 EV charging stations was issued by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. In the same month, Mahatma Phule Renewable Energy and Infrastructure Technology Limited issued a tender to empanel agencies to develop 310 EV charging stations, which will be located in Maharashtra.
Challenges and outlook
While Maharashtra has made considerable strides in promoting renewable energy, the state is facing several hurdles in its attempts to increase and sustain the renewable energy output. The production of solar and wind energy is influenced by the time of day and the weather. It remains an immense challenge to control the erratic nature of these resources and provide a steady supply of electricity to satisfy demand. Although pumped storage projects and battery storage systems are necessary energy storage options to combat this problem, their implementation may be expensive and not environmentally sound. Despite potential technical difficulties, integrating renewable energy sources into the grid is essential. To efficiently integrate variable and dispersed sources of electricity, the grid infrastructure, including transmission and distribution networks, must be upgraded. To make it more feasible to integrate green electricity into the grid, Maharashtra has been exploring options to improve the grid infrastructure. This is essential for preserving grid stability as well as guaranteeing a steady supply of power. Further, in a densely populated state such as Maharashtra, acquiring land for large-scale solar and wind projects may be a difficult and time-consuming procedure. Land conflicts and environmental issues may also arise, necessitating meticulous planning and cooperation.
The potential for renewable energy in Maharashtra could be impacted by climate change, according to recent studies. Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology’s research shows that solar energy potential forecasts for the western region of India, which includes Maharashtra, indicate a downward trend in the near term. According to the study’s climate models and anticipated simulations, there may be a decline in solar radiation across western India throughout the year, which could affect solar energy generation. However, in the next 50 years, it is expected to decline 10-15 per cent. In contrast, most climate models indicate a positive trend for central India, particularly for Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, in terms of wind energy generation. The research reveals that the winter and monsoon seasons (when wind potential is at its peak) will have greater wind speeds, thereby enhancing the wind energy generation potential in the region. Additionally, securing funding and encouraging private participation can be difficult, especially for smaller projects in rural locations. The state may also encounter infrastructural constraints concerning the availability of facilities for manufacturing components for renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, in order to achieve its goals. Building a strong supply chain within the state is crucial. Further, deploying energy storage systems at scale, while important, can be expensive. Existing technologies must advance to become more cost-effective and capable of large-scale deployment.
Despite these challenges, Maharashtra is dedicated to expanding its renewable energy capacity, recognising the environmental and economic advantages of shifting from fossil fuels. Going forward, it aims to maintain its leading position and produce 40 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, according to the state’s Unconventional Energy Generation Policy presented in January 2021. The strategy also aims to implement 17.36 GW of transmission system-linked renewable power projects by 2025, comprising 12.93 GW of solar projects, including 2 GW of grid-connected rooftop solar projects. Maharashtra has placed a significant emphasis on solar energy due to its abundant sunlight. The state receives 250-300 days of strong sunlight on average each year, resulting in a generation of 4-6 kWh per square metre. In contrast, over the past year, the wind energy industry has not experienced comparable growth. Nevertheless, with continued project implementation and funding from both the public and private sectors, the state is on the right track towards achieving its renewable energy goals.
By Kasvi Singh